The A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition is campaigning heavily on State resources; and some observers have noted that this a blatant abuse of taxpayers’ money and a possible violation of the law.
What was labelled as ‘Government business’ turned out to be a massive elections campaign, when a large ministerial convoy ventured to Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) at the weekend.
Nineteen Ministers spent three days visiting various communities, making grand promises in exchange for votes.
At the community of Tiger Pond, Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix made it clear that he was there simply to garner votes.
“You understand why it is important for us to come and convince you that you should vote for this coalition,” Minister Felix remarked.
He added: “If I wanted to go to church, I’d go to church in Georgetown. I wouldn’t come here for Sunday school. While I wouldn’t mind worshipping with you, but I come here to ask for your vote, let’s understand that clearly. Vote coalition!”
Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan recalled that only 39 residents voted for the APNU/AFC coalition at the last General and Regional Election in 2015. He urged that, this time around, more residents vote for the coalition.
“To the approximately 96 persons who did not support us on that occasion but rather cast their votes for the then Government, I’d like to ask you… to do the same this time, which is to give their support to the Government because this time around, we are the Government,” Minister Bulkan said.
The coalition Government has been accused by many, including Opposition members and independent political commentators, of using taxpayers’ money to fund its elections campaign.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon recently denied that these outreaches are part of the coalition’s elections campaign strategy. He insisted that it was strictly Government business.
But the outreach in Region Nine, which was branded ‘Government business’, shows that APNU/AFC is campaigning on State resources.
Both APNU and AFC, when they were in Opposition, strongly criticised the use of State resources for campaigning – a practice they are openly engaging in today.
The coalition has also been accused of forcing State agencies, such as the Guyana Revenue Authority, to attend party sponsored events.
Only recently, outspoken Attorney Christopher Ram blasted the Government for misusing public money and reiterated the need for modern campaign financing laws which will prevent this kind of abuse from happening.
However, he noted that there are existing laws which can be enforced to penalise defaulters.
In Chapter 1:03 Part XIII of the Representation of the Peoples Act titled “Election Expenses”, a limit is placed on personal campaign expenses to GY$25,000 per candidate and a maximum sum of GY$50,000 multiplied by a maximum number of 53 from a total number of 65 candidates for each contesting political party.
And according to Section 120 (1) of the amended Act, following elections, political parties’ election agents have 35 days in which to submit financial returns to the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Elections Commission, disclosing on behalf of candidates and their parties, all payments made by the party’s election agent, amounts of personal expenses paid by each candidate, all disputed and unpaid claims, all monies, securities, and those received for the conduct of the elections, the names of donors and contributors, among others.
However, since the enactment of these regulations (Act 24 of 1990) they have neither been observed by contesting political parties nor enforced by the CEO.